“Despite Trump’s Best Efforts, Economic Freedom Declined in the U.S. Last Year.”

So reads the headline of an article on pjmedia.com on March 17 by Tyler O’Neil.


As regular readers of my posts know, I NEVER blame a writer for a headline if I don’t know that the writer supplied the headline. In this case, though, it doesn’t matter because here’s how Tyler O’Neil starts his article:

Despite President Donald Trump’s best efforts, economic freedom in the U.S. declined slightly over the past year, even as it increased across the world, according to the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom released Tuesday.

The reality, as the article goes on to show, is that some of the decline in economic freedom occurred despite Trump’s best efforts and some of it occurred because of his (best?) efforts.

He writes:

“Reckless deficit spending by Congress and the Administration under both parties explains the weakest Index indicators: government spending and fiscal health. Approval of the recently renegotiated NAFTA (now the United States—Mexico—Canada Agreement) should help to ensure continued growth, and resolution of the U.S.—China trade dispute could boost trade freedom,” the Heritage authors explain.

So both parties and Trump should be dinged for the high government spending. Trump tried a little to cut domestic spending, and failed, but he also tried, probably harder, to increase military spending, and succeeded. So despite his best efforts? No way.

Let’s give credit where credit is due, which O’Neil does:

The index gives Trump high marks for cutting regulations and signing the 2017 tax cuts. In fact, the U.S. economic freedom score for the tax burden increased sharply in 2019 due to the tax cuts, which went into effect in 2018.

But let’s not forget his tariffs, which were one of the few policy issues on which Trump gave his best effort. Fortunately, neither the authors of the Heritage Index nor O’Neil do forget the tariffs. O’Neil writes:

The Heritage authors also fault Trump for “protectionist trade policies” that will “drag on economic growth if newly applied tariffs are not reversed.” The president would insist that his tariffs are a response to unfair trade policies imposed by other countries, but however well-intentioned (and hopefully temporary), the tariffs do weaken America’s trade freedom.